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Irish bishop faces ire after criticizing Catholic charity over grant to gay group

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Homosexual activists march in Galway's Pride parade.
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Homosexual activists march in Galway's Pride parade.

A city councilor is urging an Irish bishop to consider resigning after the bishop suggested he would pull support from the local St. Vincent de Paul Society after the Catholic charity gave a donation to a homosexual activist group.

Bishop Martin Drennan, head of the Galway Catholic diocese, had written to the charity, asking why they donated €45,000 to AMACH! LGBT Galway, the leading campaigner for same-sex “marriage” in that part of the country.

After the St. Vincent de Paul Society complained to the national Irish press about the bishop’s letter, Drennan defended himself on local radio shows on September 2 and 3.

Reacting to Drennan’s letter, Mike Cubbard, Independent city councilor for Galway, told him to “apologise and consider his position as the head of the catholic church [sic] in Galway.”

Cubbard wrote on his Facebook page September 5, “I was shocked and appalled to read comments by Bishop Martin Drennan today…Our families and friends in the LGBT Community do not deserve such senseless comments.”

“In light of his comments, I am calling for an immediate apology from Bishop Drennan and for him to consider his position of Bishop of Galway. We are a City of equals, we welcome all with open arms therefore do not need this out dated opinion branded [sic] about which ultimately could have given a darker image of Galway.”

"Homosexual activity is in our eyes morally wrong behavior and we cannot put funds at the service of what we don’t believe is morally correct.”

Drennan had told The Keith Finnegan Show on September 2, “On moral grounds we can’t support [the grant]. … Homosexual activity is in our eyes morally wrong behavior and we cannot put funds at the service of what we don’t believe is morally correct.”

He said that if SVP “supports an organisation we don’t agree with, we can’t support it anymore.” With granting funds, he said, “you have to judge what’s going to be the outcome, you have to judge the worthiness of the cause.”

Bishop Drennan added, “We want to keep in mind the good work that the St. Vincent de Paul does throughout the country. … We don’t know the full facts of the story yet.”

The following day, Bishop Drennan spoke again to a local Galway radio station, saying, “Gay culture is a different culture. We respect their view. But in our eyes it’s morally wrong behaviour and we cannot put funds at the service of behaviour we don’t believe is morally correct. … We cannot be seen to support a culture that promotes that kind of activity.”

“There’s a lot of damage to their own supporters who are asking should we support Vincent De Paul any longer,” he added.

The group, AMACH! LGBT Galway, has issued a statement saying they “extend an open invitation to Bishop Martin Drennan to meet with us, learn about our work to date and our community development plans for the future.”

AMACH! LGBT Galway is a main organizer of the annual “Gay Pride” demonstration. The group clarifies its status as a political lobby rather than an aid organization in stating that it aims to achieve its goals by “promot[ing] and obtain[ing] any Act of the Oireachtas, order or license of any Minister of the Government of Ireland or other authority.”

The St. Vincent de Paul Society issued a statement September 4 saying the grant, which is to be distributed over three years, was “endorsed by the SVP National Management Council as providing support for an excluded and marginalised group in need of support.” The statement emphasizes, with bolded characters, that the money came directly from the Maureen O’Connell Fund, a private endowment, and not “in any way from funds collected from the public in the diocese of Galway, at church gates or anywhere else.”

They note that AMACH! LGBT Galway “is a community based organisation and supported locally by Galway County Council, Galway City Partnership, Gort Resource Centre, Loughrea Family Resource Centre, Galway & Roscommon ETB, West Training & Development and Youth Work Ireland.”

The SVP grant amount of €45,000, however, is notable for being much larger than that which they receive from the government. The Connacht Tribune reports that AMACH LGBT was granted €3,000 by the government for their “social inclusion activities.”

An SVP spokesman told the Irish Times that the group has “no formal association with the Catholic Church or its bishops” but that traditionally, and in Galway, “relationships at a local level were very strong with local clergy very much involved.”  

St. Vincent de Paul Galway is part of the larger national SVP organization that traces its roots to the work of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who founded the international aid organization in the 1830s. It calls itself a “voluntary Catholic Christian organisation” that draws its inspiration from the “Gospels and Catholic social teaching” and derives its annual €74 million in funding (2010) from “corporate and public contributions, internal collections and government support.”

Anthony Murphy, a publisher of a Catholic magazine and the head of the local branch of the group Catholics United for the Faith, (CUF) told LifeSiteNews that he had contacted the bishop with his concerns about the grant. He forwarded the bishop’s response, dated September 2, in which Drennan said, “In the eyes of many Catholics the good name of SVP has been called into question.” 

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“For myself, I’m at a loss in my efforts to understand their decision,” Drennan told Murphy. “SVP does marvelous work, but their image will suffer badly if they cannot rescue themselves from the present debacle where loyal supporters are saying that they will no longer give donations to SVP. These generous people want their money to go to helping the poor and only to that cause.”

“They do not want to support what they regard as immoral activity. They are right. If this mess is not sorted then it is the poor who will be the biggest losers. If I can help to redeem this unhappy situation then I will do my best because if SVP suffers lasting damage then we all lose,” Bishop Drennan added.

Murphy told LifeSiteNews that he had told the bishop that “ordinary Catholics” felt a “sense of betrayal” over SVP’s decision, “and what they see as an abuse of their trust through the misdirection of their donations.” 

Murphy also received a response from an administrator for the Maureen O’Connell Fund, Jim Walsh, who said that the grant “is consistent with the SVP mission statement to support social justice initiatives.”

“It is also a key element of the SVP Christian ethos to be non-judgmental when its assistance is sought. The decision was made purely on the basis of need in the Galway area, in the same way as all requests for support are assessed. It does not signify any other motive,” Walsh wrote.

Murphy related the story of one woman who “broke down in tears on the phone while she was telling me about the sickness she felt at the betrayal of the generous sum which her late father left the SVP in his will.”

“She told me how he went to his death bed content with the knowledge that he would be doing some good for the homeless and hungry and she explained that he would be devastated if he thought for one second that the SVP he supported throughout his life would ever support such a venture.”

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